Former Sunderland manager Sam Allardyce is expected back at the Stadium of Light for the Black Cats’ first home game of the season against Middlesbrough.
The England chief is thought to be returning to his former stomping ground to see how Jermain Defoe fares in the Wear-Tees derby, with a view to handing the veteran striker an international recall.
Defoe started the season in sprightly fashion, opening his account at the first time of asking at Manchester City last weekend after firing 15 to help keep Sunderland afloat last season.
He’s 2/1 favourite to score at any point when his side face Boro, but a poor record in derbies suggests he’ll fail to impress the spectating England boss.
Before he moved to north-east of the nation, Defoe customarily struggled against his employers’ local rivals.
In fact, the two goals he scored in three meetings with Newcastle United is his second best haul in such matches.
Having spent the bulk of his playing days at Tottenham Hotspur, Defoe has featured in plenty of inter-capital altercations but, for Spurs, the more fierce rivalry is that they have with nearest neighbours Arsenal.
Against the Gunners, Defoe’s record was especially poor – he bagged just one goal in 18 duels either side of his short stint at Portsmouth.
When the Lilywhites faced Chelsea he was equally ineffective, finding the net just once in 17 appearances in this fixture, but was a little more productive when tackling the notably weaker West Ham United, against whom he was on target six times in 12 outings.
His hot streak in this fixture, however, only started after he switched allegiances, with no goals coming in five meetings with Spurs when Defoe wore the claret and blue of the Irons.
Looking only at returns from these high-profile local feuds, the 33-year-old’s derby strike rate stands at 13 goals in 49 games, or a little better than one every four games.
It’s not a terrible record by a long way, but it has been enhanced by recent exploits against Newcastle, thus detracting from the value in his price to score here.